What is Cross-Registration? 

By Kailee Traficante, M.Ed ’22

Editor’s Note: Whether you have recently committed to HDS or are at the beginning stages of your grad school search process, you may be wondering about the cross-registration opportunities available to HDS students across Harvard and at other schools in the Boston-area. In this article, we discuss the benefits of cross-registration and the opportunities available to HDS students. Our Graduate Assistant, Colin, a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) who cross-registered for a course at MIT, also shares some cross-registration tips based on his experience.  

What is cross-registration? 

There are a ton of amazing and rich courses offered across Harvard and at other colleges and universities around the Boston area. Cross-registration is the process by which HDS students can register for these courses for credit. HDS students are encouraged to take advantage of cross-registration opportunities and to explore options that meet their unique academic and professional interests. In fact, HDS students can take up to half of their courses in any given semester outside of HDS!

What are the benefits of cross-registering? Aren’t there a ton of course options to choose from just at HDS?

It’s true that there are TONS of courses to choose from in the HDS course catalog. However, students might find that the courses offered at another school speak to their unique academic and personal interests as well. Taking courses at different schools can also help students explore how their interests intersect with various fields, like law, technology, education, and public policy. Finally, since there are so many world-class institutions, scholars, and students in the Boston-area, cross-registration can be a great way to take advantage of all that Boston has to offer. 

Our Graduate Assistant, Colin, knew that he wanted to cross-register at MIT in order to make the most of his graduate school experience. He had some space to spare in his Fall semester schedule, so he looked for two credit courses at MIT that would allow him to learn something new. He selected a course called Digital Literacy in Schools, a topic that he was curious to learn more about.

What schools can HDS students cross register at? 

HDS students can cross-register at schools across Harvard University, at colleges and universities around the Boston-area, and at schools throughout the Boston Theological Interreligious Consortium (BTI).

Across Harvard, students can cross-register at: 

  • Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Harvard Kennedy School 
  • Harvard Law School
  • Harvard Graduate School of Design
  • Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • Harvard Business School
  • Harvard Medical School

Through the BTI, students can register for courses with a variety of faculty around Boston, including: 

  • Boston College Theology Department
  • Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
  • Boston University Graduate Program in Religion
  • Boston University School of Theology
  • Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
  • Hartford International University for Religion and Peace
  • Hebrew College
  • Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology
  • St. John’s Seminary

HDS students can also cross-register at MIT and The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. 

How can I see what courses are available for cross-registration? What is the actual course registration process like for cross-registered classes?

To register for courses at other Harvard schools, it is best to start with the Harvard Course Catalog. There, students can search for courses across the university. Once you’ve found a course you are interested in, you’ll be able to see if it is available for cross-registration by reviewing the full course description. Registration processes can vary by class, some require instructor permission or the completion of certain pre-requisites whereas others might be open access, so it is important to pay close attention to each course’s registration requirements. 

Though he ultimately didn’t take the class, Colin went through the cross-registration process for a course at Harvard Law School, and he found it helpful to email the professor of the course and the HLS Registrar to further indicate his interest in the course and ensure that his petition to join the class would be approved. 

Students can navigate to courses available for cross-registration at MIT and The Fletcher School through the Harvard Course Catalog. The individual course listings will share registration information and links to the host-institution course catalog. 

For cross-registration through the BTI it is best to start by going to their Cross-Registration Page where they share information about all things related to cross-registration. There, students can browse cross-registration options and start the cross-registration process. To cross-register through BTI, students will need to create a BTI username and password, so be sure to check out the cross-registration instructions which are linked on the page. After creating a BTI username and password, students can fill out the cross-registration forms. All cross-registration requests through BTI must be approved by both HDS and the host institution. Submitting a cross-registration form through BTI will automatically initiate the approval process. 

At the end of the day, however, cross-registration can be plain confusing and take more time than registering for HDS classes does, so HDS students interested in pursuing it should make sure to connect with their faculty advisor at the beginning of each semester for more specific and personalized advice. 

Additionally, please note that courses offered and available for cross-registration do change each semester. 

How will a cross-registered course show up on my transcript? 

Cross-registered courses will show up right on your Harvard transcript! Colin found that it just took a little bit longer for his MIT course to show up on his Harvard transcript than it did for his HGSE courses. 

What else should I keep in mind if I am interested in cross-registering? 

There are a handful of additional tips that students should keep in mind if they are interested in cross-registering: 

  1. Each school has its own academic calendar (even just across Harvard!) so it is important that students pay attention to the registration deadlines and course start dates of each school when cross-registering. 
  2. Some courses open to cross-registration may prefer students from that school or department. If this is the case, emailing the professor about why you are interested can help you demonstrate your interest in the course and show how it meets your academic and professional goals. 
  3. For students interested in cross-registering at schools located outside of Harvard’s Cambridge campus, such as the Harvard Chan School or MIT, it is important to be mindful of the time it will take to travel to those campuses and the need for reliable transportation to get there. 
  4. Each school may have its own protocols and rules, and it is important for HDS students to follow them. For example, Colin found that when he cross-registered at MIT he needed to obtain an MIT ID card and complete COVID-19 testing through their testing system as well as through Harvard’s. 

Cross-registration can be a complicated process due to the extra planning and preparation that it takes. However, it can be a very rewarding experience, allowing students to take coursework that meets their unique academic and professional interests. 

If you do have other questions about the cross-registration experience, please feel free to reach out to the Ask Students inbox. Admitted students can also reach out to their advisor for more specific support!

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